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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1828–82

The Blessed Damozel


THE BLESSED damozel lean’d out

From the gold bar of Heaven;

Her eyes were deeper than the depth

Of waters still’d at even;

She had three lilies in her hand,

And the stars in her hair were seven.

Her robe, ungirt from clasp to hem,

No wrought flowers did adorn,

But a white rose of Mary’s gift,

For service meetly worn;

Her hair that lay along her back

Was yellow like ripe corn.

Herseem’d she scarce had been a day

One of God’s choristers;

The wonder was not yet quiet gone

From that still look of hers;

Albeit, to them she left, her day

Had counted as ten years.

(To one, it is ten years of years.

…Yet now, and in this place,

Surely she lean’d o’er me—her hair

Fell all about my face.…

Nothing: the autumn-fall of leaves.

The whole year sets apace.)

It was the rampart of God’s house

That she was standing on:

By God built over the sheer depth

The which is Space begun;

So high, that looking downward thence

She scarce could see the sun.

It lies in Heaven, across the flood

Of ether, as a bridge.

Beneath, the tides of day and night

With flame and darkness ridge

The void, as low as where this earth

Spins like a fretful midge.

Around her, lovers, newly met

’Mid deathless love’s acclaims,

Spoke evermore among themselves

Their heart-remember’d names;

And the souls mounting up to God

Went by her like thin flames.

And still she bow’d herself and stoop’d

Out of the circling charm;

Until her bosom must have made

The bar she lean’d on warm,

And the lilies lay as if asleep

Along her bended arm.

From the fix’d place of Heaven she saw

Time like a pulse shake fierce

Through all the worlds. Her gaze still strove

Within the gulf to pierce

Its path; and now she spoke as when

The stars sand in their spheres.

The sun was gone now; the curl’d moon

Was like a little feather

Fluttering far down the gulf; and now

She spoke through the still weather.

Her voice was like the voice the stars

Had when they sang together.

(Ah sweet! Even now, in that bird’s song,

Strove not her accents there,

Fain to be hearken’d? When those bells

Possess’d the mid-day air,

Strove not her steps to reach my side

Down all the echoing stair?)

“I wish that he were come to me,

For he will come,” she said.

“Have I not pray’d in Heaven?—on earth,

Lord, Lord, has he not pray’d?

Are not two prayers a perfect strength?

And shall I feel afraid?

“When round his head the aureole clings,

And he is cloth’d in white,

I ’ll take his hand and go with him

To the deep wells of light;

As unto a stream we will step down,

And bathe there in God’s sight.

“We two will lie i’ the shadow of

Occult, withheld, untrod,

Whose lamps are stirr’d continually

With prayer sent up to God;

And see our old prayers, granted, melt

Each like a little cloud.

“We two will lie i’ the shadow of

That living mystic tree

Within whose secret growth the Dove

Is sometimes felt to be,

While every leaf that His plumes touch

Saith His Name audibly.

“And I myself will teach to him,

I myself, lying so,

The songs I sing here; which his voice

Shall pause in, hush’d and slow,

And find some knowledge at each pause,

Or some new thing to know.”

(Alas! we two, we two, thou say’st!

Yea, one wast thou with me

That once of old. But shall God lift

To endless unity

The soul whose likeness with thy soul

Was but its love for thee?)

“We two,” she said, “will seek the groves

Where the lady Mary is,

With her five handmaidens, whose names

Are five sweet symphonies,

Cecily, Gertrude, Magdalen,

Margaret and Rosalys.

“Circlewise sit they, with bound locks

And foreheads garlanded;

Into the fine cloth white like flame

Weaving the golden thread.

To fashion the birth-robes for them

Who are just born, being dead.

He shall fear, haply, and be dumb:

Then will I lay my cheek

To his, and tell about our love,

Not once abash’d or weak:

And the dear Mother will approve

My pride, and let me speak.

“Herself shall bring us, hand in hand,

To Him round whom all souls

Kneel, the clear-ranged unnumber’d heads

Bow’d with their aureoles:

And angels meeting us shall sing

To their citherns and citoles.

“There will I ask of Christ the Lord

Thus much for him and me:—

Only to live as once on earth

With Love,—only to be,

As then awhile, forever now

Together, I and he.”

She gazed and listen’d and then said,

Less sad of speech than mild,—

“All this is when he comes.” She ceas’d.

The light thrill’d towards her, fill’d

With angels in strong level flight.

Her eyes pray’d, and she smil’d

(I saw her smile.) But soon their path

Was vague in distant spheres:

And then she cast her arms along

The golden barriers,

And laid her face between her hands,

And wept. (I heard her tears.)